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Being an Extra! Read All About It!

A Dakota alumna and the Macomb Patch editor spend a day behind the scenes as extras on the set of the movie 'Family Weekend,' which filmed over the weekend in St. Clair Shores.

When the feature film Family Weekend hits theaters in 2012, Macomb Township residents may recognize two local faces in addition to the movie’s stars—Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Modine, Shirley Jones and Oleysa Rulin.

On Feb. 12, your Macomb Patch editor joined alumna Alyssa Vanderziel and more than 70 other extras to film a variety of scenes at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores.

The day started at 7:30 a.m. for all, and for Vanderziel, me and a few others, wrapped at 7:30 p.m.

More of the day was spent waiting between scenes than in front of the camera, but if luck is with us during the editing process, Vanderziel’s three scenes and my two should make the final cut.

Vanderziel, 19, was a first-time extra, just like I was. She said she thought the entire experience was amazing. 

“It was so different and I couldn’t believe it,” Vanderziel said. “I thought it was so cool to see Oleysa (Rulin) from High School Musical, because I love that movie and just to see how they (shot this film) and how many times they messed up and had to go through the same scene again and again was amazing. It just goes to show how long it takes to tape a few scenes.”

Shooting started with a lunch scene set in the main character’s high school cafeteria. Portrayed as the school’s social outcast, Rulin’s character is shown surrounded by dozens of rambunctious and slightly cruel peers, including Vanderziel and myself.

Rulin’s character, Emily, is a would-be jump rope champion who, during lunch, listens to her iPod and jumps rope in her head. This action is misunderstood by her fellow teens and she is regularly mocked.

Sitting at the lunch table directly behind Rulin, Vanderziel and I were able to take a front-row seat in the mockery.

“I thought it was really cool when, in the first scene in the cafeteria, I was the one directly behind her,” Vanderziel said. “We had to tease her and make fun of her. She turned around and told us, even if you are told to do something that looks stupid, you’re an actress and you have to do what you’re told for the camera. It was fun to actually have a conversation with her.”

A self-proclaimed High School Musical fan, Vanderziel said she enjoyed meeting the actress behind the character portrayed in film.

“It was really fun seeing her in a different way,” she said. “She was super nice. She wasn’t stuck up at all. She would talk to any of us. She was the one to initiate the conversation, so I thought that was awesome.”

In addition to the cafeteria scene, Vanderziel also shot a short walk-on and a gym scene” in which I also took part.

One of the final scenes in the film, the gym scene takes place moments before Rulin’s final jump rope competition. Rushing through a crowd of lady jump ropers (including Vanderziel and me), Rulin shoots deadly glares at those whispering around her.

Vanderziel and I get our close-ups in this scene, as the camera shoots from Rulin's perspective and frames each girl in the scene head on.

"I felt so close to the camera in the last jump rope scene," Vanderziel said. "I liked the way the camera at the end did the point-of-view close-up of our faces."

While the Oakland University biochemistry major admits she is not an aspiring actress, Vanderziel said if the opportunity to work as an extra came again, she would take it.

"I just wanted to see what it was like to make a movie," Vanderziel said. "I thought it was a good opportunity. It was really cool to meet the celebrities and I thought the whole moviemaking experience was great."

Me? I'm hoping to get discovered.

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